From Teaching Kindergarten in Japan to Homeschooling My Tokyo Toddler

Like many parents and guardians across the globe, I’m now tackling the task of homeschooling. Here’s how I’m transitioning from teaching kindergarten in Japan to homeschooling my Tokyo toddler.

In this post I’ll cover my 10 homeschooling goals for Miss M, homeschooling challenges, our schedule, and daily lessons. A complete list of all our resources will be in  a separate, detailed post. (June 15 UPDATE: Here it is! Growing Up Bilingual In Japan — English/Japanese Resources For Toddlers)

Due to Japan’s State of Emergency to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, my girl and I have doing our part by staying home and by practicing social distancing whenever out in public.

The State of Emergency has been lifted but these past two months have been a wonderful opportunity for family bonding and to test the waters of homeschooling.

For years, I’ve dreamed of opening a neighborhood English school/learning center, so perhaps homeschooling will be a good experience for us both!

My Homeschooling Goals for Miss M:

1. Work on self-expression and managing emotions AKA adjusting from Terrible Twos to Threenager

2. Expand her English vocabulary and improve Japanese language development

3. Recognizing her name in both English and Japanese

4. Pre-writing practice: Tracing, 1-10 connect the dots, drawing a circle/triangle

5. Counting and identifying numbers 1-20 in both English and Japanese

6. Identifying upper and lowercase letters and hiragana*

*Hiragana, by the way, is the basic “alphabet” (writing system) of the Japanese language where each symbol corresponds to one syllable. Once a child masters hiragana, he/she can read and comprehend any children’s book as long as they have a decent word bank.

7. Eating with chopsticks

8. Nurturing independence and improving fine and gross motor skills through independence through helping me with chores, cooking, and baking

9. Pedaling a tricycle and moving around on a “balance bike”


We’re doing well on this point, actually. Miss M only wears a diaper during nap time and bedtime!

Homeschooling Challenges

In many ways, I imagine that my background in teaching kindergarten in Japan will be a great asset as we navigate the uncharted waters of homeschooling in Japan.

I’m already thinking about elementary school, and how I can prepare Miss M.

Ideally, I wanted Miss M to stay at her current daycare/kindergarten and supplement with weekly Japanese and math lessons at Kumon.  But, with the current state of things, I have to rethink my strategy so  she’ll be ready to enter a Japanese elementary school in the near-future.

I thought my teaching experience and lesson planning would come in handy. But, our first week was a mess! I’m used to teaching 4 and 5 year olds, and must now consider the emotional and physical development toddler.

Honestly, being in charge of one free-spirited 3 year old for a few weeks has proven to be more of a challenge than managing a single classroom!

The first week of homeschooling was rough because Miss M just wasn’t used to ME being in the role of a teacher. So, rather than being a “teacher” at home, I now present homeschooling as “lesson time with mommy.” I find that has been a manageable approach for us.

The final challenge, of course, is homeschooling a threenager! This is where it’s really helpful for us to have a flexible schedule.

From Teaching Kindergarten in Japan to Homeschooling My Tokyo Toddler

Our Schedule

The homeschooling schedule that I designed for Miss M is a modified version of what would have been our class schedules. My class was right next to the three year old kindergarten class, so I’m very familiar with their daily routine.

This schedule is very flexible in order to accommodate threenager tantrums, the weather, and other factors like laundry and meal prep/cooking.

However, what remains constant are morning and afternoon snacks and naptime, three wonderful breaks that let us reset and bond.

After our 10:00 morning snack, it’s time for Morning Circle, followed by core lesson time. After I stamp workbook pages, we’re officially done for the day! By this time it’s around 11:30 — time for lunch!

Lunch is followed by a movie or outdoor play, depending on the weather. If indoors, I might use this time for cleaning, folding laundry, or to prep for tomorrow’s lesson. Afternoon play is followed by a nap and afternoon snack, just like at kindergarten.

Daily Lessons

Each lesson begins with a 10-15 minute “morning circle,” and is based on a felt wall calendar that I picked up from Target. We do the days of the week, the date, weather, seasons, and feelings.

After morning circle is the ABC song and a phonics chant.

After ABC and phonics time, we do vocabulary card games related to the day’s lesson.

Altogether, core lesson time is around 35-40 minutes.

*Monday: Hiragana and Japanese vocabulary

*Tuesday: Letter Recognition & Writing Skills

*Wednesday: Numbers and Spot the Difference

*Thursday: Letter Recognition & Writing Skills

*Friday: Japanese (Hiragana, Vocabulary, Storytime) & Monthly-themed craft

While everything looks organized written down, I don’t stick to this schedule, nor do I try to. There are just too many variables to account for, so it’s just easier to adapt to each day.

Sometimes we’ll do morning circle, go for an extended neighborhood walk, eat lunch, and then have a lesson. On rainy days, we might binge-watch Paw Patrol and have lesson time in the afternoon. What matters most to me, is spending time with each other and cherishing each day.

From Teaching Kindergarten in Japan to Homeschooling My Tokyo Toddler

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